Artificial Empathy: Exploring the Jekyll of AI

Artificial Empathy: Exploring the Jekyll of AI

Just like the oceans, the workings of the human mind remain to be vast and uncharted. But thanks to artificial intelligence, mankind may soon have the right tool to understand and predict human behavior.

In psychology, there is an age-old debate on the origin of human behavior. The debate is popularly known as the nature versus nurture theory, with equally convincing evidences for both sides. Nature experts would insist that humans naturally inherit their attitudes and personality from their family members, even tracing back to their great forefathers. On the other note, the nurture specialists would attest that humans are born as blank slates, and it is only through environmental factors like culture and education that people shape their personality or behavior. 

With artificial intelligence, mankind may just have the answers to solve this long-standing issue, together with other arguments surrounding human behavior. In fact, recent studies show that psychopathy and empathy—two of the most widely-researched phenomena of the human mind—can now be better explored through AI systems. Discovering and applying human behavioral data to AI holds promising opportunities for industries, especially for healthcare and marketing enterprises.

In the first part of this article series, find out more about the latest developments regarding artificial empathy, and what it means to the current and future state of organizations and their customers.

Empathy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During the pre-pandemic years, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 1 billion people were affected by mental health disorders. These numbers have further increased during the pandemic, with depression and anxiety being two of the most dominant conditions. There are many factors that intensified these conditions during the pandemic. The fear of contracting COVID-19, the lack of access to sufficient health services, and the physical distance from friends, family, and co-workers are only some of the issues that put a strain on the public’s mental health.

So aside from quality mental health services, the situation calls for greater empathy across businesses. More customers seek corporations that reflected their pain points during lockdowns and quarantines. Even the workforce began to re-evaluate their roles, with employees handing their resignations once they realized that they are working for less empathetic organizations.

The Benefits of an Empathetic AI

At a time where employees and consumers find their empathy at the edge, using artificial empathy may offer increased productivity and conversion rates. Developed artificial empathy systems can help provide effective and empathetic consumer services, while giving employees time to build better relationships and engagement with  the customers and within their organizations.

Specifically, here are the three key benefits of employing artificial empathy in enterprises.

  1. Identify and offer support for customers.

According to the CallMiner Research Lab, support agents of companies are more likely to encounter vulnerable customers who are in dire need of empathy. As representatives of an organization, they are responsible for making customers feel that they are being heard, taken seriously, and most of all, receive the appropriate action to accommodate their needs.

Conversation analytics like facial recognition, voice analysis, or even language processing can help determine negative and positive emotions. Using this data, artificial empathy can assist agents in making the appropriate response during a conversation and suggest other potential actions to address the customer’s needs. 

  1. Provide stress relief and increase productivity among the workforce.

Global research shows that employees are more likely to experience physical and mental health problems, use harmful substances or alcohol, and lose productivity if they are in a negative working environment. A bad workplace can be in the form of unclear organizational objectives, poor management practices, or the job content itself. The job content may involve addressing stress or services from irate or vulnerable customers, and these factors will most certainly take a toll in people’s mental health.

With artificial empathy, the burden of forming appropriate responses to equally-distressed customers or contacts may be lessened. Employees will also have more time to move forward to other tasks and utilize more of their breaks or vacation leaves. In addition, other technologies with empathetic AI embedded on them like wearables, can help remind employees about taking care of their health in the form of heart rate analytics or dietary reminders.

  1. Gain insights on the best practices for empathy.

Trainings and webinars are great ways for the entire organization to learn how to practice empathy. But how do leaders ensure that these trainings had effectively made significant changes to empathetic practices at work? Surely, a test or a survey may reveal vital implications but may not ensure that implementation is truly at place.

Empathetic AI can assist in providing helpful insights to implementing certain new policies and practices for empathy. Using conversation analysis, organizations can detect the words, phrases, tone of voice, or even facial expressions that are viewed as empathetic by clients. Topic detection and empathy database can drive improvement on workforce practices and also improve customer experience.

The Current State of Artificial Empathy

As of this moment, AI does not have the power to exhibit empathy yet as much as a real human does. Nor are they built to replace human support services, because studies show that 86% of consumers still prefer engaging with humans more than machines and similar researches also reveal that 67% of customers do not regard the right content or offer as an indication of an AI’s empathy.

Instead, artificial empathy is viewed as an additional support to improve interactions between brands and customers. There are current AI systems that are made to listen to customer and agent conversation, and give feedback to employees regarding the tone and rhythm of their voices, and other vocal cues. This AI software identify pain points in customer experience, value perceptions, and major factors affecting buyer decision.

At most, artificial empathy is designed to solve compassion fatigue among employees who are at the forefront of offering support and services to consumers. Recent developments in empathetic AI also help determine prevalent social phenomena in the age of the pandemic, such as social proof—a behavior in which other people follow what other people (particularly influencers) are doing.

Ethical Questions about Artificial Empathy  

The current practices on empathetic AI shows great potential, but increasing criticism surrounding the use of an emotional AI still looms. In the US, for example, recent studies suggest that only a small number of customers (15%) accepted the usage of mood detection in advertising. If an organization does decide to venture into using empathetic AI, there are some prevalent ethical questions that they would have to face and consider in their implementation.

  1. How accurate or inclusive are the artificial empathy systems?

Accuracy in detecting empathy or other human behavior is essential to make reasonable business decisions. Organizations would prefer appropriate response suggestions for different customer needs. In addition, enterprises that are working on a global scale would want responsible feedback on dealing with consumers from different races, religions, classes, or culture.

  1. How protected are the conversation data being harvested?

Data privacy is one of the biggest concerns over technological advancements. Customers and employees may be uncomfortable with the fact that all their conversations—their facial expressions, voice tone, word choice, etc.—are being recorded and accessed by enterprises. People fear that their innermost issues or discussions might be exposed to the public, in the event of a data breach.

  1. Who has access and control over empathetic AI?

Consumers are also concerned with the people who has authority to access their data. Some customers may feel that their conversation patterns can be used to identify and influence their emotions or decisions for a brand. To others, these instances appear as ways to undermine their freedom of speech, religion, or expressing their true selves.

  1. To what extent are customers allowed to reject or accept access to data?

Conversation data may help provide insights on the pain points of a customer. But consumers also have the right to reject and accept access to their data, just like in the process of data transparency frameworks for major tech giants these days. Experts deem that standards and agreements should be put into place, so that both organizational efforts and customer experience are not compromised.


Artificial empathy, like other evolving technologies, is still seen in black and white. Society sees its advantages but also sees its disadvantages. But the human behavior is unpredictable—and perhaps AI is the key to better understanding how empathy will be viewed or exhibited in the years to come.

And while an empathetic AI shows great concern among experts and the general public, how would it turn out if experts focus on the other side of the spectrum—a psychopathic AI?

This article is the first part of a two-part series on exploring empathy and psychopathy in AI. Read the second part of the series here:


Curious to learn more about the newest trends on artificial intelligence? Read more about the latest enterprise technology, innovation, and sustainable industry practices at CXO Connect ME.


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CXO Connect Middle East Team